Friday, April 12, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Spring Awaits 12/04/24

A cloudless sky and an early morning visit to my local Dalmadilly Ponds failed to produce any overnight arrivals and I still await my first spring Blackcap and Willow Warbler, normally the next two passerines to arrive after Chiffchaffs! As is the norm up here in the northeast of Scotland we are probably around two or three weeks behind my old birding grounds of Warwickshire.  

Oystercatcher

After breakfast, I headed off to the coast with stops along the Ythan and at Bullers of Buchan. The tide was out with a stiff offshore breeze and there were plenty of waders feeding which included the hoards of Redshank, along with Curlew, Dunlin, OystercatcherTurnstone, Ringed Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and a small group of summer plumage Black-tailed Godwits. A single drake Long-tailed Duck was also noted from Inch Point.

Just a single Puffin seen at Bullers of Buchan

Finally, I went for a quick walk along the cliffs at Bullers of Buchan, would you believe in shirtsleeves, to see if any Puffins had arrived yet. None along the cliffs but I did manage a single bird on the water mixed in with the Guillemots and Razorbills. Both Kittiwakes and Fulmars were already on nests and it was the usual wonderful cacophony of noise.

Bullers of Buchan

Thursday, April 11, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 North Aberdeenshire 10/04/24

I took advantage of a break in the weather and started my day early, as there was no rain expected until this afternoon. I arrived at Portsoy Harbour just before 7am, where I noticed that the wind had died down and there was only a slight swell on the sea. The relatively clear skies were perfect for scanning the area for White-billed Divers, which are a common sight along this part of the coast during spring.

Long-tailed Ducks

I observed a group of five Long-tailed Ducks and a single Red-throated Diver below. There were plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill moving back and forth, and further out, I noted Gannet, Fulmar, and Kittiwake. Though I didn't spot any White-billed Divers on the sea, I was eventually rewarded when a single bird flew east past the harbour. I followed the bird through the scope, its bill catching the low morning sun on occasions and had some decent views until it disappeared to the east.

Red-throated Diver

After visiting Portsoy, I took a drive along the coast to Fraserburgh where I had breakfast, parking opposite the Home Bargains store, which can be a good spot for observing white-winged gulls. The tide was low and though I scanned the gulls, I didn't find anything unusual. However, I did spot a few waders including a group of eight Ringed Plover, as well as DunlinCurlew, Turnstone, Redshank and Oystercatcher.

I visited RSPB Loch of Strathbeg next, and since it was a pleasant morning, I spent an hour at the bench overlooking Starnafin Pools. A couple of Greenshank, along with a Little Egret, and a good selection of wildfowl, including Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Shelduck, and Teal. I also spotted the regular Green-winged Teal, but before I could take a picture, a couple appeared, walked straight to the fence in front of me, and flushed the birds. The Green-winged Teal was last seen flying over to low ground. 😑

Pintail

From the bench, I booted up & walked to the Dunbar hide around the farmland track. Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff, and Yellowhammer, with a few Sand Martins that had just started to appear. When I arrived at the Dubar Hide, I saw the bird-flushing couple who were getting very excited and taking lots of pictures of what they thought was a 'Great White Egret.' However, it was actually a Little Egret, and I didn't have the heart to tell them otherwise. A large flock of Black-tailed Godwit, which I estimate to be about 100 in number were feeding just out in front looking stunning in their smart summer plumage. Further out around 500 Golden Plovers were spooked by a passing Marsh Harrier, and a pair of Pintails were another highlight. Back at the centre before heading off a real Great White Egret was noted, although distant. I did scan the many distant Pink-footed Geese feeding on the fields but no sign of any white geese, a Snow Goose seen by Mark Sullivan a few days earlier. 

Sandwich Tern

Finally, a stop at Inch Point in Newburgh overlooking the Ythan, the tide now in, produced my first Sandwich Terns of the year with three in total, a lone Common Scoter, two Long-tailed Duck and of course the wonderful Eiders, a good end to a long day.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 I'm Back 09/04/24

After a two-month break from blogging, I'm back. Despite no posts I've had ample opportunity to get out and about and I suppose the best way to bring things up to date is by means of a pictorial, so here we go with a few highlights over the period.


Shorelark 

 RSPB Fowlsheugh February 27th 2024 ~ A day out with David Leslie, Mark Sullivan & Rob Leslie. An elusive bird to find in a deep ridged ploughed field but eventually picked up with a thermal imager. Also during the same outing our first Black Guillemot of the year just along the coast at Cove.

Black Guillemot


Bufflehead

A short drive over to the Sand Loch at Forvie NNR on March 25th for a Drake Bufflehead which is almost certainly the same bird that spent a brief few hours on the east side of the Irish Sea at Carbeth Loch, Clyde. From here it made its way across to the North Sea coast at Sand Loch, Aberdeenshire, on the 24th becoming the first record for both counties.

Corn Bunting

Although not particularly scarce in Aberdeenshire the above Corn Bunting was one highlight during a particularly quiet day out with the RSPB Aberdeen & District Local Group at RSPB Strathbeg on Sunday, March 24th.



Tree Sparrow

One garden surprise for me was on the morning of March 20th when two Tree Sparrows visited my feeders for the very first time since I moved north. I've also had subsequent visits from both birds since.

Mandarin Duck

These colourful ducks are regular visitors to Fyvie Castle Loch during the winter months and David Leslie and I managed two pairs during a morning stroll around the loch on March 19th. 

Dipper

Dippers are a regular feature around my local patch, this particular one taken on the River Don near Seaton Park Aberdeen.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls at RSPB Strathbeg

Surprisingly LBBG's are only summer visitors to Aberdeenshire, like this pair only arriving back in late March.

Brambling ~ A regular in the garden.

Back to today and an early afternoon visit to my local Dalmadilly Ponds in the pouring rain! An excellent hour with my first local counts of Swallows and House Martins of the year, the rain obviously bringing the birds down low to feed. Also of note back home was a Brambling, which has been hanging around for the past week, along with what seems like the whole Siskin population of the village, over 50 counted in the surrounding trees during a cold snap last week. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Belated Update 13/02/24

It's been a while since my last update and I've been a little lazy when it comes to keeping my reader up to speed on my field trips. My 2nd hobby is Flight Simulator and this has taken priority as I get to know the new features in the latest Microsoft version MSFS. A few health issues have also caused several days on the sideline when for some unknown reason I developed a tear in one of my retinas. A trip to Specsavers revealed the tear and I was immediately referred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where within two hours I had received laser surgery and was on my way home. Thankfully the surgery worked and my retina is now secured with what they tell me is a perfect weld!

View of the Cairngorms from a recent Logan Air flight from Birmingham.

I'll begin by discussing the weather, which has been a combination of snow, ice, rain, and a few very windy nights, so nothing unusual there! However, there was an exception earlier in the month when the temperature reached the balmy heights of 15.1C. Dazza took some incredible photos of the Cairngorms in snow during a recent flight, one of which I have included above.

Delighted to see my first Scottish Bittern 

To the birding and I've enjoyed a few days out with David Leslie, his father Rob and Mark Sullivan, committee members of our RSPB Local Group. Highlights included a trip out of county to Monikie Country Park in Angus where we managed some reasonable views of my first Scottish Bittern. The last one I saw was at Brandon Marsh before moving north.

Iceland Gull at Fraserburgh.

A morning along the coast at Fraserburgh on February 2nd produced a nice adult Iceland Gull and indeed the first Gannets of the year. Later in the week, an afternoon walk at Buchanhaven produced some good views of the many Purple Sandpipers

Purple Sandpiper at Buchanhaven

The garden feeders have remained very busy with at least four Brambling hanging around and double-figure Siskin, along with the occasional Lesser Redpoll. On Saturday morning a stunning Sparrowhawk spent a short time on the fence directly under the feeders! Dazza and I watched in amazement from the living room window. 

Sparrowhawk on the garden fence (through the window photo)

A Few More Recent Images...

Fieldfare

Brambling in the Garden

Iceland Gull

Curlew

Common Gull

Sparrowhawk

Monday, January 15, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Comfort Birding!

 πŸ΄σ §σ ’󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Monday 15th January 2024  πŸ₯ΆπŸŒ¨️ -2C ~ Wind NNW @ 18MPH ~ Yesterday evening, the heavy snow showers began and have not stopped since. As of now, I estimate that approximately 8 inches have accumulated.

The view this morning.

This Fieldfare takes immediate advantage and fends off all comers to protect his find!

I was well prepared with the feeders topped up, the apples strategically placed and the ground saturated with seeds. As the saying goes, "Build it and they will come." I've had an enjoyable day 'comfort birding' mostly from the bedroom window and it looks like more of the same for the next few days.

Sikins on the sunflower hearts, along with a single Lesser Redpoll.

Always good to see Brambling in the garden.

Another Brambling taking advantage of the sunflower hearts!

Siskin through the bedroom window.

A Lesser Redpoll sheltering from the latest snow flurry.


A bit of a stern-looking chap!

Not sure who was actually 'comfort-birding' but I think these Red Squirrels are well able to handle the conditions.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 YEAR-LIST 2024

January is typically my least favourite month, largely due to the short days and dark, dismal weather that is common here in northeast Scotland during January. However, there is always a silver lining as we begin a new year of birding. Even local species, such as Blackbird and Robin, are quickly sought after as the new "year-list" begins to take shape. 

Red-necked Grebe ~ A record shot in dire conditions at Sand Loch Forvie NNR on January 3rd. 

Green-winged Teal at Cotehill Loch ~ Thanks to Mark Sullivan for the image.

My year started off well by adding Firecrest at Drumoak, a rare species to Aberdeenshire and Short-eared Owls at Kings Links golf course in Aberdeen during a day out with my wife Dazza on the 2nd. I've also managed several local outings since including Cotehill Loch Collieston where I recorded Green-winged Teal and the the Sand Loch at Forvie for a Red-necked Grebe

Drake Long-tailed Duck ~ At least 10 birds sheltering within the harbour walls at Cairnbulg.

On January 5th I stopped off on route to Strathbeg at Cruden Bay Harbour where a Meditteranean Gull had been reported and connected immediately as the bird flew along the shoreline on the opposite bank. I reached Strathbeg a short time later in torrential rain, taking cover in the visitor centre where I was able to view the many wintering Whooper Swans, also noted while here Tree Sparrows and of course Pink-footed Geese. My final stop was at Cainbulg Harbour, still in the pouring rain but from the car Common Scoter and the usual good numbers of Long-tailed Duck.

Grey Seal haulout at Forvie Sands

A deceased Minke Whale on Forvie Sands ~ David gives a perspective of size!

David Leslie and I had an enjoyable day out on the 10th, taking a circular walk along the Ythan Estuary and Forvie Beach. We spotted a variety of wader species, including three Grey Plovers which are a rare sight in this area, but their frequency seems to be on the rise. The highlight of the visit was witnessing a ringtail Hen Harrier being harassed by the local corvids.

A few walks around my local village sites of Dalmadilly Ponds and Fetternear Woodlands, the latter producing a nice surprise when I came across a group of 13 Hawfinches. We did manage Hawfinch during an RSPB walk I guided back in November but I imagined those birds were just passing through, obviously not the case. Indeed, during a visit yesterday, the flock has now increased exponentially with 49 birds reported by other birders on site. Worth a mention too is a large flock of around 100 Brambling, regular here most winters feeding off the mast of the many Beech Trees at Fetternear.


Hawfinch at Fetternear on January 9th.

At home, the garden feeders have been busy with the huge House Sparrow population that resides here being constantly usurped by some very fiesty Siskin. Lesser Redpoll are also regular visitors and on the 8th a brief visit from a Mealy/Common Redpoll, which unfortunately didn't stay long. 

Greenland White-fronted Goose on the fields at Kemnay January 12th ~ 102 for the year.

As of January 12th, my species count stands at 102, an excellent start to my birding year and all within my home county of Aberdeenshire/Aberdeen.

Brambling

Hawfinch at Fetternear

Just a few of the many Hawfinch

Siskin/Lesser Redpoll ~ From the Kitchen Window

Siskin

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 2023 REVIEW ~ PART TWO

 2023 REVIEW PART TWO.. I spent a few days in England in mid-March before my trip to Spain. During my time there, I visited my old patch at Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve in Warwickshire catching up with a few old birding buddies before heading off for a few days in Norfolk. In total, I managed 84 species.

Highlights included a stop at Eldernell in Cambridgeshire en route to Norfolk to catch up with Long-eared Owls and Short-eared Owls and a very showy Long-billed Dowitcher at the wonderful Cley Reserve in Norfolk.


Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley in Norfolk on March 17th.

Short-eared Owl at Eldernell on the Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire on March 16th

One of three Long-eared Owls at Eldernell on March 16th.

Two trips to Andalusia Spain took place in 2023 recording 170 bird species. The first trip was from April 20th until May 5th, and the second trip was from October 21st to November 2nd. Last year Spain experienced its worst drought in years and during our spring visit temperatures reached highs of 35C, unprecedented for the time of year! A very different story for our autumn visit with rain & wind but unfortunately not enough rain for the lagoons and reservoirs to recover. 

A Western Olivaceous Warber at Zapata an area I visit regularly when in Andalusia.

During our trips to Spain, Dazza and I came across an +Olivaceous Warbler at Zapata on April 30th, which was a first for us in Andalusia. We also saw Red-necked Nightjars mating earlier that morning. Our other highlights included a magnificent Black-winged Kite at La Janda, Little Bustards at HuΓ©tor-TΓ‘jar in Granada Province, and a Bonelli's Eagle that drifted over the villa while we were having morning coffee. There were also many other colourful species that we saw during our stay, but it would take too long to mention them all.

Black-winged Kite ~ Always on my wishlist when visiting La Janda.

On a beautiful early morning in April, I spent an incredible few hours simply sitting discreetly under a tree near a water font in The Sierra de las Nieves National Park near Marbella watching Firecrests, Bonelli's Warblers, Crested Tits, Cirl Buntings and Western Subalpine Warblers visiting the font for a drink & occasional bath, a simply incredible experience!

A Crested Tit visits the water font at The Sierra de las Nieves

Western Subalpine Warbler at the Water font.

A Western Bonelli's Warbler having a bathe.

In 2023, I also added a new butterfly and dragonfly to my lists. It's not just about birds, after all. +Desert Orange Tip is a species of butterfly originally from North Africa that was once considered rare and sought-after. However, it has now established a small colony in the far south of Spain, although it is still a rare sight.

A rare +Desert Orange Tip found at Guadalhorce near Malaga

My Dragonfly addition was an +Epaulet Skimmer which I came across during my regular walk at Zapata on October 24th. 

+Epaulet Skimmer at Zapata

Looking back at the year always fills me with nostalgia and excitement, but it's never easy to select the best photos to showcase when there are so many to choose from. This is why I've been blogging since 2009. It allows me to reminisce about the past and cherish the memories. Hopefully, 2024 will continue to bring many more memorable moments to brighten my days in a world that seems to be getting gloomier by the day.